Google is integrating third-party reviews into the Knowledge Graph for hotels.  Supposedly, this has been happening since 2016 and is entirely opt-in for the provider.

Google directly works with the third-party review source in order to integrate the content.  In the example found below, TripAdvisor for Southern California hotel Terranea are available under the “view Google reviews” link in the Knowledge Panel.

Seven years go, Google had gotten themselves into trouble for “scraping” and incorporating third-party review content from sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor into Google Places without permission.  To Yelp, the move was seen as a sort of an antitrust “extortion” and mounted a huge campaign against it.

A provision of Google’s 2012 antitrust settlement with the FTC was that the company would allow publishers to block Google from including third-party reviews in “vertical search offerings” without their being excluded from the general index.  According to the FTC statement announcing the settlement:

Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to keep their content out of Google’s vertical search offerings, while still having them appear in Google’s general, or “organic,” web search results. The FTC investigated allegations that Google misappropriated content, such as user reviews and star ratings, from competing websites in order to improve its own vertical offerings, such as Google Local and Google Shopping.

The settlement expired on December 27. In a letter to the FTC, Google said it would continue to adhere to the main terms, including enabling publishers to opt out of having their content being displayed in Google’s vertical results:

The commitments cover two main areas. First, Google agreed to remove certain clauses from its AdWords API Terms and Conditions. Second, Google agreed to provide an opt-out mechanism for websites to opt out of the display of their crawled content on certain Google web pages linked to google.com in the United States on a domain-by-domain basis. We believe that these policies provide additional flexibility for developers and websites, and we will continue them as policies after the commitments expire.

Remember that this reviews program involves Google working directly with publishers to include their content.  It’s unclear if this will expand to other categories, like restaurants or local services, but in theory, it would over time.

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